Gem of the Week from Rav Hirsch zt”l: Broken Pieces – The Message of the Three Weeks


Chazal tell us that the luchos were engraved on both sides. The Aseres Hadibros could be read no matter which way you stood. They had no front and back; the writing pierced through them, yet they could be read either way.

Like the luchos, the Torah must not have a one-sided effect on us. It must penetrate us through and through, it must set its stamp indelibly on every part of our being. Whichever way we are turned, the writing of Hashem must be visible on us. Don’t engrave the Torah only on one side of you, so that you appear a Jew when seen from the right angle. Be a Jew through and through, on both sides, in all aspects of your life. To Hashem, there is no reverse side. Everything faces Him.

Just as the luchos fell helplessly to the ground, klal Yisrael, if left to itself, would fall prey to every act of violence. But when we are embraced by the power of the Divine word, then all political horoscopes are meaningless. Proof of Hashem’s hashgacha can be seen not in the downfall of Israel, but in its existence. When Hashem hides His face, klal Yisrael’s catastrophes are a natural result.

Trusting in the power of the Torah, adhering to it unswervingly—this is the condition our salvation requires. A lack of such trust in its power and the support it alone can give us; is the sin that causes all our catastrophes. With the Torah in our arms, we can defy all the storms of the world.

But even with it, throughout history, we have looked around for other gods to protect us. We have cast sidelong glances at the shields other nations fashioned out of human power and natural forces. We lacked the courage to fly on the wings of the Torah alone. The word of Hashem was not enough. It shriveled up into a religion, a cult, representing only one aspect of life.

From time to time, Hashem tested His people, to see whether the miracle of their existence through centuries of galus has finally taught them to reject the gods of the earth. But they always showed signs of not yet being ready. They ran the risk of devoting their lives to other things—the political independence, social freedom, civil rights that their hosts in galus provide. They ran the risk of finding room for the Torah only in the synagogue.

So again and again, Hashem has allowed their hosts to become less hospitable. And He has again and again committed us to the wings of His Torah. And He will sustain us and teach us until we finally reach full and lasting maturity, until all our old errors have been atoned for.

What was said after the luchos were restored will be fulfilled: that Hashem will walk with us, though we are a stubborn people, and grant forgiveness to our sins and errors, until we finally return to Him with open arms, as His own everlasting inheritance.

Moshe Pogrow,

Director, Ani Maamin Foundation

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Please note: This “Gem of the Week,” is based on excerpts from Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch zt”l’s collected writings, with permission from the publisher.



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